The Federal Government handed up its 2017-18 Budget on May 9, 2017. Cotton Australia’s view is that, on the whole, the Budget is a reasonably neutral one for cotton growers and the industry.
However, there are a couple of areas of concern, including lack of new funding for mobile blackspots and the route for the inland rail project, and Cotton Australia will continue to advocate on behalf of growers on these important issues.
Here’s a snapshot of the major Budget 2017-18 impacts:
- Asset write-offs: the $20,000 immediate asset write-off provisions for small business assets have been maintained, and eligibility criteria have been extended to businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million. However, the instant asset write-off has been extended only for another 12 months. It should also be noted that the accelerated depreciation schedules for water and fodder infrastructure introduced in previous budgets will remain in place.
- Regional infrastructure & investment: the Government has established a Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) to streamline delivery of up to $4 billion in concessional and water infrastructure loans. Although the $2 billion for water loans is not new, the introduction of the RIC to administer them is, and is welcomed as a means to direct infrastructure for regional communities. Accordingly, the RIC would be a good candidate for location in a regional area.
- Transport infrastructure: $8.4 billion for the inland rail project and funding for regional rail upgrades is a shot in the arm for primary producers. However, the inland rail line's route may be problematic for growers facing the prospect of compulsory land acquisitions, particularly on the Darling Downs. Cotton Australia will be maintaining a watching brief on developments in this project.
- Workforce & skills: although $24 million will be dedicated to Rural and Regional Enterprise scholarships over four years, the new 'Skilling Australians Fund' levy will likely be a burden on the agriculture industry. In addition, increased fees for temporary work visas may be problematic, and do not provide the required answer to labour shortages.
- Telecommunications: no new money has been made available for funding the rural telecommunications blackspots program beyond round three, which is disappointing and will be a sore point for growers. Cotton Australia will continue to work with the Government as this program is rolled out, and will push for additional investment into the future.
- Natural resource management: $1 billion over five years for Landcare is good. More money is to be made available for onshore gas assessment ($30.4 million), but this reinforces the Government's commitment to expanded resources operations - the latter is problematic for growers in a number of regions. Cotton Australia will continue its advocacy in order to protect landholder rights.